Thursday, July 31, 2008

Camtasia Relay Announcement

TechSmith - the people behind Camtasia Studio, SangIt and Jing have just announced the public beta of Camtasia Relay. Camtaisa Relay is intended for schools and organizations that want to get more users screencasting but don't have a user-base that is comfortable with all of the steps involved in using Camtasia Studio. You install Camtasia Relay on a server and thin client recording software on all of the computers that will be recording. All of the work is done at the server, including:
  • recording,
  • processing,
  • publishing, and
  • distributing.
New Product Beta Announcement - Welcome Camtasia Relay (Visual Lounge)
So, what is Camtasia Relay? It is lecture and presentation capture for the masses - perfect for businesses and academia. Say you are a professor and you want to capture and share your lecture. Camtasia Relay makes it easy for you to do this - there is a simple recorder that's easy to use (see pic on the left). Step in the classroom or the boardroom, tell Camtasia Relay to record and deliver your presentation. After you're done recording, Camtasia Relay does all the work for you. You can automatically produce the recording into different formats, name the files and copy the files to different servers. There is an automated distribution system to share your recorded presentations easily.

This is TechSmith's first server-side offering. And, no new hardware is required - Camtasia Relay runs securely on your existing networks, Windows servers, PCs and Macs. The Camtasia Relay recorder runs on the local machine. It records full motion video so you capture exactly what happens during a lecture or presentation.
Click this link to watch a video explaining Camtasia Relay.

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George Orwell - Blogger

Cory Doctorow at boingboing links to an announcement from The Orwell Prize that starting August 9th, they will begin posting diary entries from George Orwell's 1938 diaries at Whether you're an English teacher, a History teacher or just a fan of Orwell's books, this is a great opportunity to get insight into what he was thinking and his views - during a very turbulent time - on world events. It's interesting to consider what greater writers from the past would have thought of blogging, podcasting and video as communications media and how they would have used them.
From 9th August 2008, you will be able to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Put Learning in Kids Hands

Here's a great example of the power of the iPhone. Molecules is a free application from the iPhone app store, developed from code based on an open source project. Using the multitouch interface, you can spin the molecule around, zoom in, zoom out, and pan around. The application comes with three molecules pre-loaded and allows users to download additional molecules directly to the iPhone. Imagine the power of these sort of applications in helping our students and our kids to learn chemistry, biology - just about anything really!
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Another Example of User Data at Risk

Athletics logo containing the Terrapin mascotImage via Wikipedia
I've posted a number of stories recently detailing data breaches, stolen laptops, and risks of traveling with a laptop at the airport. As this report from the Chronicle for Higher Education shows, vulnerability to identity or data theft is not limited to electronic data. Even a postal mailing - from a seemingly innocuous college office - can open users to unexpected risks.

Wired Campus: Social Security Numbers of U. of Maryland Students Exposed
About 24,000 students at the University of Maryland are at risk of having their identities stolen.

On July 1, the university’s Department of Transportation Services sent all students registered for upcoming fall classes parking brochures. Affixed to the brochures were mailing labels that contained student’s Social Security numbers, although the numbers were not identified as such. The numbers were inadvertently put on the mailing labels, according to a university Web site.

J. David Allen, director of the transportation department, apologized for the security breach in a Thursday e-mail message to registered students.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tiny Violin

Ann B - I know 2 Ann Bs with iPhone - pointed me to an alternative to
more cowbell - Tiny Violin. This is a little 99 cent app that allows
you to use one finger on the strings and another to move the bow.
Great for dealing with complaining kids and colleagues - let me play
my tiny violin!

Can You Trust the 800-Pound Gorilla?

Moodle Course Management System  with a naviga...Image via Wikipedia
Until two years ago, my college used WebCt as a CMS or course management system. We switched that year to a smaller - though agile CMS - Angel. As you would expect, this was a big project, which included moving all of our existing courses from WebCT to Angel and re-training all of or faculty and staff invovled with distance education. The impetus for these actions was the purchase of WebCT by Blackboard. In the CMS world, Blackboard is the 800-pound gorilla - the Microsoft of their industry. Faced with transitioning to Blackboard or staying with WebCT - until their product lines merged, we picked option C instead. We've been extremely happy with our choice. Angel is an extremely easy to learn and user-friendly CMS and more importantly, AngelLearning is a really great, responsive company.

I talk to colleagues at colleges throughout the country. Many schools that faced the same choice chose to stay with WebCT - essentially putting off the transition, while others moved to Blackboard, but were often frustrated by the quality of WebCt courses imported into Blackboard. Another - even more adventurous - group has decided to forgo the commercial treadmill and opt instead for open source alternatives such as Moodle and Sakai - the Linux in our gorilla/Microsoft analogy. I'm skeptical of the following story. I just don't see Blackboard working to create an open source tool to connect/transition a Blackboard course into an open source alternative. If - a big IF - they did this, they would be creating a way for anyone unhappy with Blackboard - too expensive, too big, too unresponsive, whatever - to move their course to a free competitor. I'll believe it when I see it! Blackboard Says New Tool Will Synchronize With Competitor
Blackboard Inc. has teamed up with programmers at Syracuse University to let its course-management software connect with Sakai, a free open-source alternative. But some fans of open-source software have expressed skepticism about whether the company, which is known for its aggressive tactics, will deliver on its promise for greater openness.

Although Blackboard sells colleges licenses so that every course on a campus can use its software, some campuses that have licenses are dabbling with Sakai or other open-source software for at least a few courses or other services. The goal of the new software link is to let users seamlessly shift between courses and services that use Blackboard and Sakai, without having to go to another Web site or re-enter a user name and password.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cowbell Pic

Here's the iPhone screenshot that was supposed to be in the last post
- my bad!

More Cowbell Please

Great free iPhone app - more cowbell - has you playing along with your
iTunes library. If you slack - the producer exhorts you to give him
more cowbell!

Fonts Come to Life

John Gruber at Daring Fireball links to a really funny video from about fonts. Makes me think of a recent "professional" document I received from a colleague - written in Comic Sans. My favorites - at least in the video - Wide Latin, Arial Narrow, and Century Gothic. And Baskerville Old Face is good too - "... when I was just a 4 pt, a font was a font ..." Another great quote "... you're insane, nobody uses Microsoft Works ... "

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Higher Ed or Big Brother

The Technology Classroom Building at PCC SlyvaniaImage via Wikipedia
The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on pending legislation that could have some really frightening implications for colleges and universities, students and our distance education programs. New Systems Keep a Close Eye on Online Students at Home
Tucked away in a 1,200-page bill now in Congress is a small paragraph that could lead distance-education institutions to require spy cameras in their students' homes.

It sounds Orwellian, but the paragraph — part of legislation renewing the Higher Education Act — is all but assured of becoming law by the fall. No one in Congress objects to it.

The paragraph is actually about clamping down on cheating. It says that an institution that offers an online program must prove that an enrolled student is the same person who does the work.
The result?
[Colleges are authenticating] online test takers by reading their fingerprints, watching them via Web cameras, or recording their keystrokes.
[Requiring students to] travel to distant locations so a proctor can watch them take exams on paper.
For many colleges, the fear is that solutions developed and managed by third-party vendors will collect students' images, fingerprints, and even images from inside their homes, ultimately jeopardizing our students' privacy.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

uBot - Are We Close to Having Robots in our Homes?

Kismet (robot) can produce a range of Facial e...Image via WikipediaThis video shows a prototype of uBot, a robotic assistant/home helper. Since the term robot was first introduced in 1921 by Czech playwright Karel Čapek, society has alternated between fear of robots run a muck and robots as faithful servants improving our quality of life.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Web 2.0: Micro-blogging and Customer Service

I've been on the micro-blogging service twitter for quite awhile and recently began following Frank Eliason - a Comcast employee on Twitter as comcastcares. It's interesting to watch the interaction between comcastcares and twitter users disgruntled in some way with Comcast. Some of the complaints are performance issues; others are full-blown rants - each deftly dealt with by comcastcares - all (complaints and responses) in 140 characters or less. Here a quick snapshot of comcastcares twitter stream; complaints followed by responses.

Colleges need to look seriously at tools like twitter. I see many potential applications, including connecting with students in the department, potential students, former students, disgruntled students, employers, etc. Librarians could man twitter and answer questions. Admissions could provide registration, financial aid, tuition, an other information. When you think about it, the applications are really unlimited. In an increasingly competitive environment, we have do everything we can to get students and to keep them. It really is customer service!
Wikinomics - Blog Archive » A New Age in Customer Service
A few days ago, an article written in the business column told a story about Comcast responding to a complaint by C.C. Chapman about his service. While watching his HDTV, the reception starting becoming very poor so Chapman quickly started expressing his anger on Twitter and “within 24 hours, a technician was at Chapman’s house in Milford to fix the problem.”

“Chapman’s experience is one example of the ways customer service is changing in an age when a single disgruntled consumer with a broadband connection can ignite a crisis,” from Carolyn Y. Johnson, the author of the article.

The article shows the power of ordinary people fighting against large corporations. For fun, in Google, I searched “Comcast complaints” and found over 1,870 listings and without quotations around the phrase Google brings up over a million listings.
It seems like Comcast finally got the message. With the emergence of Web 2.0 ordinary people can have their voice heard and create a terror of a public relations problem for companies. “Listening and acting upon what [customers] are hearing and being very proactive is different than waiting for a customer to pick up the phone and call us. We can nip it in the bud,” said Karen Hartzell, division vice president of customer care for Comcast’s NorthCentral division.

In the new business environment, companies need to implement a team of individuals to help combat the conversations about their company. By combat, I am not referring to a retaliation, but providing a solution to the problem. Working with customers to generate a satisfying customer experience is essential to thriving in business today. Customer service is just one of the departments shifted by Wikinomics.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Your Father's Thesaurus

A miniature thesaurus combined with a dictionaryImage via Wikipedia
thsrs is an interesting reinvention of the typical thesaurus which returns synonyms that are shorter than the original. Great for making those sophisticated documents of yours more accessible. Thsrs - The Shorter Thesaurus

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Ditch the ClipArt: Add Visual Impact to Your Presentations

Examples of computer clip art.Image via WikipediaI've talked a lot in the past about adding multi-sensory content to a presentation to make it more engaging. These include audio, video and high-quality photos. In fact, most great presenters advise to avoid the "cartoony" clipart that ships with Windows and Office. One great resource for photos is - which allows you to limit your search for creative commons licensed content, often free to use or modify with proper attribution. Ide'e Labs has a really great tool - MultiColor Search Tool -that allows you to search flickr based on color - upto 10. Imagine not only high quality photos in your presentation, but also photos that create a unified color theme.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Other Alternatives to 4 Dollar a Gallon Gas

Protected MP4 file.Image via Wikipedia
Here's part of an email I received promoting a particular vendors training resources. You'll notice that this solicitation points to their audio training products as a way to "earn back" some of that $4 gasoline. This is great advice, but you don't need to pay $29 for training materials. Instead visit the podcast section of the iTunes store and search for interesting audio and video podcasts - almost all free - that you can listen to on your iPod or MP3 player or even burn to a CD that you can listen to in your car. For a fee, you can also purchase audio books from the iTunes store or directly from Another great source for audio - some free; some fee-baesed - is With these and other free or inexpensive online resources, you can build your own custom training program.
With gas rising to $4 per gallon, your drive to work is getting more expensive every day. PrepLogic can help you start earning that money back. With Quiz Me and Lecture Series audio training, you can learn while driving to work, or anywhere else. Use PrepLogic audio training to pass your CCNA, A+, Network+, CISSP® and more. Get certified quickly and easily and fight the price of gas with a new high-paying job. This week, all audio training is on sale for just $29.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

ShoZu on the iPhone

I've been waiting for this application to do blogging from my iPhone. Great for posting to flickr and twitter too.

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In the Trenches with Google Docs

Google DocsImage via Wikipedia
Here's link below to a lengthy, but worthwhile post from Tom Barrett on his ICT in my Classroom blog. In the post, Barrett details how he uses Google Docs to mark student papers and provide live feedback. If you have your students do any kind of written work, this is worth reading. Marking work in Google Docs
What is the best way to give feedback on a piece of work produced in Google Docs? What formatting tools are most appropriate to use when leaving comments? How do you organise 30 to 60 pieces of work handed in to you? How do children hand in work? What new possibilities does this process uncover?
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Take That PalmPilot

The App Store iconImage via Wikipedia
I remember the old PalmPilot commercial, with a man and a woman passing each other in trains traveling in opposite directions. As the trains begin to move their eyes meet. Realizing they may never see each other again, each raises their PalmPilot, presses and holds the address book button to "beam" their contact information to each other. It's a really compelling scene, but unfortunately not very realistic, as PalmPilots use InfraRed (IR) technology which has very limited range and requires maintaining a very precise alignment of the two devices. After July 11th, when the iPhone App Store launches, realize that when you see two geeks at conference or party standing next to each other shaking their iPhones, they're not doing anything inappropriate - they just exchanging contact information. Tapulous is launching a free application that takes advantage of the iPhones always on connection and the built-in accelerometer. Watch it in action below.
IPhone: Friend Book to Beam Your iPhone's Contact Data with a Shake
The coolest feature without a doubt is the new "Handshake": put two iPhones running Friend Book together, shake them up and down, and the personal contact information of the phones' owners will be beamed through the net to the paired phones. Handshake doesn't work through a device-to-device connection, but instead passes location data back to Tapulous' servers — two shaking phones in the same location means it's time to swap information.

Friend Book promo video

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4 Dollar a Gallon Gas = More Online Courses

Gas Prices Drive Students to Online Courses
For Christy LaBadie, a sophomore at Northampton Community College, the 30-minute drive from her home to the Bethlehem, Pa., campus has become a financial hardship now that gasoline prices have soared to more than $4 a gallon. So this semester she decided to take an online course to save herself the trip­—and the money."I would prefer to actually go to school and be there to do it," says Ms. LaBadie, a single mother working toward a degree in medical administration. "But it's hard enough paying tuition, much less the price of gas."
Here's some data from the article:
The Tennessee Board of Regents, for instance, reports that summer enrollment in online courses is up 29 percent this summer over last year. At Brevard Community College, in Cocoa, Fla., summer enrollment in online courses is up nearly 25 percent. Harrisburg Area Community College, in Pennsylvania, saw its summer online enrollment rise 15 percent to 20 percent. At Northampton summer online enrollment is up 18 percent.
Not surprisingly, this trend is expected to "...lead more colleges to expand their offerings, or experiment with "blended" courses that mix in-person and online meetings."A great resource for students and faculty considering online courses is the Distance Learning Calculator from the SUNY Learning Network. By entering a few pieces of information into this simple web-based form:you can get a quick estimate of the cost of attending classes - and by extension, how much you would save by taking an online course. My quick example shows that I would save $1,100 a semester, just by staying home and teaching one of my courses online. When you consider that our part-time teaching rate is roughly $600 per credit or $1,800 for a typical 3-credit course, it's hard to imagine why anyone would teach part-time, when they're netting only $700. This cost is not trivial for students. With tuition at $108 dollar per credit or $1,620 for full time (up to 15 credits), it becomes increasingly important to provide students as many options for online learning as possible, and to ensure that they can fit more than one course into their daily schedule.Also worth a read is Elearning is Good for the Environment.Image from loiclemeur
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

More Effective Presentations

Eric Feng from The Public Speaking Blog details steps to take to improve your presentations. He includes "prep," which seems to be a common theme to all great presenters. Not only Audiencedo great presenters prepare, they also practice, practice, practice - even with an audience to get feedback to improve their presentations. The second piece of advice - multi-sensory - is also something that is typical of great presentations, which include audio, video and stunning visuals. The advice concludes with storytellling and pausing before making important points. Here's a great exercise - How to create stories in ten minutes or less.

Read more at: The Public Speaking Blog - What Every Speaker Needs To Know If You Want To Leave Your Audience Mesmerized & Inspired
... four very powerful practices you can adopt in your next presentation to leave your audience mesmerized and inspired. ...

1. The importance of prep work
2. Make your presentation multi-sensory
3. Develop a story-driven presentation
4. Pause before every important point you make
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Monday, July 07, 2008

Laptops and the Airport

Image via Wikipedia
From the photograher, Dean Shaddock:Add to all the fear of data breaches and stolen laptops this troubling report of just how many laptops are stolen at airports each year - and how many (half) have confidential information. As a frequent traveler this is something that always concerns me - my "stuff" gets through the x-ray quickly, but I'm delayed by extra security of someone having to be re-screened in front of me, and by the time I get to my stuff, my laptop's gone. It hasn't happened yet, but it's something I'm always watchful of - more so than the TSA staff. Some tips below. How to avoid laptop loss at the airport | Community
In a paid study sponsored by Dell the Ponemon Institute has published a report that claims over 10,000 laptops are lost or stolen every WEEK at US airports. Recovery rates are very low, evidently because most people do not even try. Half the laptops, according to the survey, contain confidential corporate information. These data put into perspective the ruckus caused by the infamous stolen laptops at the VA. There are obviously thousands of data loss incidents that are going unreported.

Here are some tips from the article:

1. Place your laptop in the first bin you put on the belt of the X-ray machine. You should put your laptop bag in front of it. Put the bin with your shoes, belt, purse, wallet, etc. right behind your laptop. And your carry-on bag last. The first thing you should do on the other side is put your laptop in its bag before the other luggage crashes into it and dumps it on the floor. Your other stuff separates it from the person behind you and in front of you.

2. Mark your laptop! Put a sticker on it. I know people hate to do this. But you should identify your laptop in such a way that you can quickly identify it.

3. If you lose your laptop contact the TSA immediately. Call the airport. Take action. I bet in 99% of the cases you can get it back.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Communicating Technology Issues

Communication major dimensions schemeOne of the biggest issues with any organization is communication. Communication becomes even more problematic when our subject is technology. "Techies" and regular people - unfortunately - speak different languages and are often frustrated trying to communicate with one another. Here's an interesting apprach from technology consultant Warren Arbogast. Click the link to lisen to the podcast: Tech Therapy - Episode 26: Talk to Me Like I'm a Child (Encore)
How do you talk about technology on campuses? Is the message getting through? In this discussion from the archive, Scott Carlson, a Chronicle reporter, and Warren Arbogast, a technology consultant, talk about the communications lessons you can learn from children and TV Guide.
Image via Wikipedia
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Pocket Projectors Closer Than We Thought?

I've posted earlier on the idea of pico projectors. Texas Instruments has been working on commercializing the product. Here's a video showing a BlackBerry Curve modified to include a TI pico projector. Pretty cool! Pico Projectors: TI Builds Pico Projector Into BlackBerry Curve

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

At the Intersection of Science and Gaming

Really interesting story on using the skill of gamers to solve scientific and medical problems. Watch a video - Welcome to FoldIt - showing FoldIt in action after the break. Wired Campus: Playing the Science Game
Could the person who finds the cure for cancer be a gamer? The creators of an online game that allows players to help scientists design new proteins with therapeutic properties hope so.


More than 40,000 people have downloaded the game. It is still being tested and limits players to finding answers only to known protein puzzles, so that scientists can analyze how good people are at folding proteins. In a few months, the game will allow players to create brand-new proteins. But since the “right” solutions to those puzzles will be unknown, even stable-looking structures proposed by the gamers will have to be created in the lab to see if they really work.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Stolen Laptop = Stolen Data

Earlier, in How Safe is Your Data? I discussed a story pointing to a rise in data breaches. This was something we experienced on our campus last year, with a rash of stolen laptops - even a desktop and a projector from one of our labs. The response on our campus was to be much more selective regarding who does and does not receive a laptop computer. In fact, anyone that wanted a laptop had to provide a written justification detailing why they needed a laptop. Appaerently, we were not alone as this was part of a larger national trend. Wired Campus: Theft of Computers Holding Personal Data Is on the Rise at Research Universities
The Campus Computing Project, an annual survey of colleges’ information-technology practices, shows that from 2006 to 2007, colleges of all types saw a 3.6-percent increase in the number of stolen computers with sensitive data.

How Safe is Your Data?

Wherever you work, whatever you do, if you think your data is secure, you need to read this story from the Washington Post. While we seem to be doing a better job of protecting our networks and our data from hackers, we need to do a better job of protecting data on laptops (lost or stolen) and digital storage media. If you lost your laptop, PDA, smartphone or usb drive today, is there anything that would prevent someone from accessing your files and your data?
Data Breach Reports Up 69 Percent in 2008
Businesses, governments and universities reported a record number of data breaches in the first half of this year, a 69 percent increase over the same period in 2007 driven by a spike in data thefts attributed to employees and contractors, according to an analysis by identity theft experts.

The San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center tracked 342 data breach reports from Jan. 1 to June 27. Nearly 37 percent of reports came from businesses -- an increase from almost 29 percent last year.

Data breach reports from health care providers (14.9 percent of the total) and banks (10 percent) continued to rise, while the share of breaches from educational institutions (21.3 percent of the total) government entities and the military (17 percent) declined for the third year in a row, the ITRC found.

Hacking was the least-cited cause of data breaches in the first six months of 2008 (11.7 percent of the total). Instead, lost or stolen laptops and other digital storage media remain the most frequently cited cause of data breaches, accounting for more than 20 percent of all reported cases, the ITRC found. The inadvertent posting of personal and financial data online prompted roughly 15 percent of the data breach disclosures.


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